Faculty, students and workers protest budget cuts on UCSC’s opening day
A broad coalition of UC Santa Cruz faculty, students, workers and alumni will protest budget cuts by holding a walkout on Thursday, Sept. 24, the first day of classes.
The call for a system-wide faculty walkout began on Aug. 31 with an open letter titled “A Correction: From Shared Governance to Collective Action” signed by 10 distinguished UC professors. The letter argues that the UC Office of the President (UCOP) has botched the budget cuts and undermined the UC’s educational mission.
More than 1,000 faculty representing all 10 UC campuses became signatories in the following weeks, including more than 100 from UCSC. The American Association of University Professors soon issued an official endorsement of the walkout.
Support from student groups quickly gained momentum as well. UC Berkeley’s Graduate Student Organizing Committee drafted an open letter urging UC graduate students to participate. The UC Students Association, the body representing over 200,000 UC students, has also passed a resolution of support.
The labor union of University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE), which represents 12,000 UC workers, is striking at the base of campus on Sept. 24 in conjunction with the walkout. “In our discussions with folks throughout the UC we became aware of the walkout and decided we wanted to do this in solidarity with each other,” says UPTE Local Three President Phil Johnston.
UPTE’s picket plans were well underway before the faculty action was announced. UPTE members, who have been without contract since June 2008, say the UC has violated legal obligations to bargain in good faith with the union.
While the UCOP website encourages UC employees to write testimonials to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger explaining the impact of the $813 million state funding cut, walkout supporters say that the crisis calls for more than an e-mail campaign.
“We cannot allow either the California legislature or the Office of the President to proceed as though cuts to public education do not have debilitating consequences,” states the faculty letter.
The letter demands full disclosure of the UC budget and insists that salaries under $40,000 be exempted from the system-wide furlough plan. The signatories also demand that faculty input concerning the implementation of the furlough plan be instituted immediately.
UCOP rejected the unanimous recommendation of the Academic Council, a body that represents the Academic Senates of all 10 campuses, that faculty be allowed to take some furlough days on instructional days. Signatories believe this action makes a mockery of the supposed “shared governance” of the University and obscures the real ramifications of the UC regents’ handling of the budget crisis.
“Instructional furloughs pressure the state to cease de-funding the UC system, and they pressure the Office of the President to confront the fact that its overall approach to budget reform is unsustainable and unjust,” states the faculty letter.
The timing of the walkout, the first day of school on several campuses including UCSC, has been controversial. Students often attempt to enroll in full courses by attending on the first day and talking to professors – a process known at UCSC as “crashing classes.” Indeed, the number of students intending to crash classes this year may be larger than usual because budget cuts have slashed course numbers.
Nevertheless, walkout supporters say the severity of the situation warrants immediate, visible action. “No faculty who signed the petition wants to hurt students. In fact, much of our activism is to stand up for students’ interest,” writes UCSC literature Professor Chris Connery via e-mail.
Participating faculty will employ a diversity of tactics for the walkout. While some cancelled class in advance, others will likely convene class long enough to hand out syllabi and discuss reasons for the action before dismissing students to make their own decisions.
“I’m definitely going to the walkout,” says Madison Carroll, a senior literature and feminist studies double major. “I’m taking classes with professors who I know will be supportive of my participation, and if they’re not then maybe it’s not a class I should be taking.”
As of Monday, Sept. 21 neither UCOP nor the UCSC Public Relations Office had issued statements about the walkout or strike, and declined to comment on the issue.
“Everyone I know who is observing the walkout is looking at it as a teachable moment as well as a necessary action,” says Don Kingsbury, a PhD candidate in politics. “It’s meant to create the sort of solidarity that is being actively discouraged by the university.”
Please visit www.goodtimessantacruz.com for updates on the walkout and strike.